10 Things to do in Taichung

Taichung is one of the larger cities in Central Taiwan, where most people just stop by for a few days or even one day on the way to other more popular destinations like Hualien. Everyone was shocked when I told them I’ll be staying in Taichung for a week. Most people were convinced I would be bored to death staying in Taichung for such a long duration. Retrospectively, I would beg to differ. Maybe because my style of travelling has evolved to one of being chill and relaxing, soaking in the vibes of the city. I’m perfectly happy spending my afternoon sitting in a cafe and having good conversations.

Taichung is a nice place to spend your holiday in, with laid-back vibes, cheap food, cheap shopping (for girls mostly). The whole city runs mostly on buses so you end up spending a lot of time travelling from place to place so that’s a downside. But other then that, do check it out when you have a few days to spare in Taiwan!

1. Cycling the Dongfeng, Houfeng trail
Definitely one of the most beautiful cycling trails I’ve been on. I loved it so much, I actually cycled on it twice!

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There are two wonderful parts to the trail, the first part is the tunnel. It’s a much welcomed respite from the blazing sun, and the temperature is much lower in the tunnel itself. The tunnel is about 1.5km, meant for trains in the past! Each direction only has a single narrow lane, so I was quite jittery especially on my first cycling trip with the weekend crowd.

At the end of the tunnel, a beautiful bridge awaits with a large stream underneath. It was simply breathtaking, and this is the second wonderful part of the trail. We spent quite a lot of time taking photographs on this bridge and also admiring the scenery.

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The rest of the trail was not as memorable but it works out nicely as good exercise! There are multiple bicycle rental shops at the start of the trail (we started near the Horse Stables) that offer good rates. For those who cannot cycle or are feeling lazy, the shops offer electric bikes! For those feeling romantic, there are tandem bikes available. For me, I chose the good old sturdy traditional bike.

2. Cycling in Tanya Shen Green Bikeway
Another cycling trail that I enjoyed was the Tanya Shen Green Bikeway because of the beautiful trees lining both sides. It’s not just a bikeway but a trail for the locals to do their daily walks. The greenery makes for a nice escape from the dull greyness of the city and the trees provide a nice shade from the a scorching sun.

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It’s also quite easy to get to, with bus stops at various points of the trail. However, beware of the lack of bicycle shops. We found a bicycle shop online, only to find that it was closed when we reached. According to one of the ladies we asked for directions, the bicycle shop closes whenever it wants to. So cross your fingers that the large bicycle shop is open!

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If it’s not, you could do what we did and borrow from the shop located at the start of the trail. First and foremost, you won’t notice it is a shop because it looked like a mess. The shop owner isn’t the most organised person, the bicycles are piled up. To get a bicycle, the owner rummages through his pile to present you one. It’s quite funny, it’s cheap, it’s not the best bicycle out there but it gets the job done! Just cross your fingers that you won’t suffer the same fate as us.

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3. Catch the Sunset at Gaomei Wetlands
This is one difficult place to get to but when you get there, the sunset makes all that misery disappear. It is amazing to see the sun setting, past the horizon, right in front of your eyes. The wetlands get really crowded during the weekends or public holidays, so I would advise to go on weekdays instead, unless you love the crowds. Remember to bring along a bag to put your shoes in so that you can walk on the wetlands. I gave that a miss because of the crowds and the fussiness of carrying my shoes around while carrying my camera. But Weiling was a less fussy person and had pretty shots amidst the mudlands!

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4. Chun Shui Tang
Apparently, this is the shop where Bubble Tea originated from. And it was also the shop which I frequented the most during my Taiwan trip. They have many outlets around Taiwan, almost like a Din Tai Fung but with amazing bubble tea. If it’s winter/ cold outside, you have to try the hot bubble tea, you can’t find anything like that in Singapore. Or more like, you won’t enjoy a hot bubble tea in our weather. But in Taiwan when it’s cold, a hot bubble tea is a warm comfort to your tummy.

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They serve dishes too if you are looking for a reliable lunch/ dinner place, or a snack place to refuel before more shopping. One dish that I particularly loved were the sweet potato leaves with radish foam. I’m amazed that they could elevate the humble sweet potato leaves with this dish. Other dishes that I tried were the braised beef noodles, fried turnip cake, stewed tofu with rice cakes (not a fan of rice cakes to be honest), kungfu noodles (they weren’t generous with their ingredients).

5. Shopping at Yi Zhong Jie
This street is meant for the university kids so the shopping is priced reasonably but you sometimes have to dig around for good stuff. The local brands are well-established in this street though, with multi-levelled shops. One of my favourite shops was Theladywore, with well-designed clothing at half the price compared to Singapore!

6. Shenji New Village on Saturdays
A previous dormitory compound built by the government, now refurbished into hipster shops to showcase the art and talents of young Taiwanese people. The main shops are wonderful to wander around, with shops that sell cleaning brushes made of animal hair (bought a horse brush to clean my bottles from there), dried flowers, stationery, to name a few. Amidst all that wandering, you might find yourself in one of the cafes sipping on some freshly brewed coffee.

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On Saturdays, the place gets even livelier, with pop-up stalls being set up along the walking pavements. I thoroughly enjoyed myself here!

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7. Night lights at Mitaka 3e cafe
Perched on top of a hill, you have to come here at night when the city of Taichung lights up. The whole experience was quite magical, to say the least. The food was passable, the coffee was not bad but the view, the view is something you come for. You will have to take a taxi here and come early to watch the sun set!

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8. Play with dogs
Taiwanese people love dogs and cats, so many households own a pet. With friendly Taiwanese owners, there were so many dogs we could play with! I remember walking past a dog park near the main train station, and we just wandered in to play with all the cute little doggies! And another time we saw a Shibu inu outside a house, we tried to play with it but it kept ignoring us. The owner saw us and came out with some of the dog treats just so that we could play and take a photo with it! Wonderful people with wonderful dogs 🙂

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9. Xinshe Flower Market
This is definitely meant for tourists but the flowers were pretty and we had fun taking photographs amidst sunflowers. This flower market is near the Dongfeng Houfeng bicycle trail, so you can always head here before or after cycling!

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10. Overnight stay in Sanyi Town
Sanyi is famous for its wood-carving but it has quietened down in the past few years. Our Taiwanese friend mentioned that a couple of years back, this town would be teeming with tourists and artists working hard at their woodwork but these days, the town seems empty and the artists less frequently seen. I found this Airbnb in Sanyi Town which is run by an artist. At night he conducts classes to introduce you to wood-carving and we went for it! It’s $20 for about 2 hours, and it is definitely a workout for your arms.

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The town also has a museum that displays woodwork from artists all over the world. You might think that woodwork is mostly traditional, but you will be surprised to find abstract art expressed in the medium of wood. I was very amazed with the many thought-provoking art pieces.

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There is also a walking trail near the museum that brings you up to a tea plantation. It was so foggy the morning we walked it but it was a fun experience. It’s a relatively easy trail that will take you about half an hour up the hill.

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ohmysourdough! sourdough english muffins

If you’ve been feeding your sourdough starter regularly but not been baking bread as regularly, you’ll probably find yourself in a position somewhat like mine- with lots of starter but unwilling to throw them all away.

I never liked throwing away food, so I was so excited to find this recipe that is so forgiving towards my little Bruno (aka my sourdough starter).

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If you are new to sourdough and found your hands on some starter, then here’s a quick crash course on how to turn that starter into some yummy bread!

The starter is basically wild yeast that we cultivated from our environment. It is this yeast that makes the bread rise. There are two principles behind the successful sourdough bread.

Firstly, the yeast must be active. The yeast needs flour and water to multiply, so it has to be fed regularly. By putting it in the fridge, we can slow down its metabolism so that it multiples at a slower rate. This is a very useful concept to the home baker who probably only bakes once/ week. A simple trick is to feed the starter in a ratio of 1:1:1 (starter:flour:water), then put it in the fridge for a week and only take it out when you need it! For this recipe, you can use the sourdough starter straight out from the fridge!

Secondly, the structure of the bread must be well-made. The additional flour and water/ milk added to the starter are the spaces for the yeast to multiply. When the yeast is active, they produce bubbles. However, we need structure to ensure that these bubbles stay there. Gluten gives us the structure. Hence, stretching and folding the dough will help us to form the gluten! So we will end up with nice, stretchy dough that contains air bubbles!

Keep these two principles in mind for now, and I will go on to explain in further detail regarding each step of the sourdough bread-making in subsequent posts. For now, you can try your hand at these easy English muffins!

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Sourdough English Muffin
makes 6 muffins

Ingredients
135g full cream milk
190 g sourdough starter
190 g bread flour
8 g sugar
6 g salt
28 g butter (room temp)
cornmeal (to sprinkle)

Directions
1. Heat milk until it reaches 85 degrees Celsius. Then leave it aside to cool to room temperature.
2. Whisk sourdough starter into the milk until thoroughly mixed.
3. Add the bread flour into the mixture, and mix with your hands until there is no more dry flour.
4. Leave it aside, covered, for 30min
5. Add in the butter, sugar and salt, and mix with your hands until you do not feel the sugar & salt granules.
6. Allow bulk fermentation for 3h. Every 30 minute, do 1 stretch and fold.
7. At the end of 3h, divide the dough into 90g pieces, and shape it into rounds.
8. Sprinkle with cornmeal and place onto a baking sheet. Rest overnight, up to 24h.
9. The next day, remove from the fridge and rest at room temperature until doubled in size.
10. Preheat the oven at 160 degrees Celsius.
11. Place on a medium-heat griddle, 5 min on each side.
12. Place the muffins into the oven for 12 min.
13. Remove from oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

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Sticky Date Pudding

Hello guys! It’s been a year since my last post, and I’m so sorry that this blog has been more than dead. I still managed to keep my Instagram floating, so to all you fervent supporters, thank you for being patient with me.

The past year has been really busy, studying for MBBS and finally getting my medical degree after 5 long years of studying woohoo! Thank God for bringing me through the 5 years and for blessing me with loads of wonderful friends to journey with.

With the end of one journey comes the start of another! I am now part of the working force, earning my own keep and having more free time to spend in the kitchen. I’ve been trying out loads of recipes and new things, like sourdough bread and pickling. I’m quite excited to share these things on the blog with you! Because they are so simple to do yet so yummy!

One of the simple recipes I will share today is of one of my favourite desserts – sticky date pudding! My gold standard for sticky date pudding comes from Marmalade Pantry. The contrast between the warm, moist pudding and the cold, creamy ice cream, brings the perfect end to any meal. I’ll always order it Marmalade Pantry no matter how full I am.

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Being on the list of my favourite desserts, I had to master this. I’ve tried a couple of recipes but they always culminated in dry puddings, nothing near the one I had in Marmalade. So, when I tried this pudding, I knew I had to share it with you!

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This pudding is moist, comforting and super simple to make! My parents had two each for tea, D kept going ‘this is really good’, the only gripe was that it was still a bit too sweet from the butterscotch sauce. That’s something I still need to tweak, but here it goes first, tweaked from the recipe kindly shared by Chef Daniel Sia, of Odette fame:

Sticky Date Pudding
makes 15 individual portions

Ingredients for Pudding

250g pitted dates
225g water
110g salted butter
100g castor sugar
2 eggs
4g baking soda
7g baking powder
250g plain flour
200g whipping cream

Directions

  1. Heat dates and water in a saucepan until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 165 degrees, with fan. Butter the ramekins/ muffin tray that you will be using.
  3. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until pale and white.
  4. Turn to Low mixing speed, and beat eggs into mixture, one egg at the time.
  5. Add in flour and whipping cream in alternate batches, until well mixed
  6. Add in the date paste.
  7. Spoon batter into ramekins until 2/3 full.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20 min or until batter is cooked.
  9. Once out of the oven, immediately poke holes in the cake and pour the butterscotch sauce over.

Ingredients for Butterscotch Sauce
200g brown sugar
375ml heavy cream
70g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Directions
Heat all the ingredients in a pan until the butter is melted.

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